The government has stepped up the automation of barriers at railway crossings island-wide as a measure to tackle the staggering 300 or more deaths recorded every year as a result of train related accidents.

General Manager, Sri Lanka Railways, BAP Ariyaratne told Nation that at least 25 deaths due to train accidents were recorded every month while adding that most of the tragedies were due to carelessness and recklessness on the part of motorists or other road users.

“We have monitored the accidents and our records indicate that there are 25 to 30 deaths every month,” Ariyaratne said. He added that the death toll during the first three months averaged 30.

He said that steps were already underway to automate 45 manually operated barriers by the end of this year.

Ariyaratne said that measures were also underway to call for tenders to automate an additional 200 manually-operated railway crossings over the next four to five years. Accordingly, there are 688 level crossings out of approximately 1,100 that are operated manually.

While stressing that there were no ‘unprotected railway crossings’ in the country, Ariyaratne suggested that the majority of such accidents could have occurred where barriers were operated manually.

“There are suicide cases as well. Plus, there are accidents when people travel on footboards and when they try to get in when the train is in motion. Many of these accidents are due to the carelessness of the people and drivers,” he said.

He further said that the lack of law awareness among the people also resulted in such accidents.

“According to the law, people cannot walk on railway lines and cross them at random places. We have apprehended a few people who have walked on the tracks. We have implemented the law to an extent. But it is hard to implement it on a mass scale. People need to be careful,” he emphasized.